1956: First commercial oilfield production
1976: Nationalisation of Angola’s oil and establishment of state-owned Sonangol UEE with oil production at 100,000 bpd
1983: Institution of the first international subsidiary, Sonangol Limited, in London
1991: First oil concession granted in deep waters in Block 16
1992: Establishment of subsidiary Sonangol P&P as an oil company
2000: SonAir began direct flights to Houston from Luanda in November and Sonangol Shipping starts its operations
2003: Sonangol P&P begins operating in offshore Block 3, the company’s first direct experience in drilling
2004: Production of oil in Angola reached 1 million bpd
2005: Sonangol Distribuidora begins its internationalisation by opening petrol stations in Portugal
2008: Inauguration of the new Luanda headquarters
2009: Licensing of processing units of the proposed refinery at Lobito
2011: Signing of production sharing contracts for pre-salt blocks in Angola
Sonangol is the largest company in Angola’s economy, employing more than 8,000 people. It is an operationally integrated company and the driving force in the development of oil resources in Angola.
The company was established in 1976 as the sole concessionaire charged with producing oil and gas from Angola’s subsoil and continental platform. Sonangol EP also manages most of the country’s fuel distribution, which it undertakes alone or in partnership with foreign companies. The Angolan oil major’s core business activities extend beyond production to include prospecting, research and development, marketing, transportation, storage and refining. Sonangol EP has partnership agreements with most of the world’s international oil companies.
Sonangol’s wider role
In order to reduce dependence on fluctuations in the oil market, Sonangol EP has sought to diversify its activities and has taken on a leading role in other areas of the Angolan economy. Sonangol has acted in a similar way to a development agency, deploying some staff members to bolster administrative skills at embryonic enterprises. A good example of this aspect of the company’s activity is Sonangol subsidiary SIIND which operates as an incubator for new industrial developments. Some of the industries it supports are linked to ancillary oil services and the manufacture of drilling equipment, fibre optic cables and specialist paints, while others support key areas necessary for the country’s industrial renaissance, such as electronics, telecommunications and irrigation equipment, packaging and construction materials.
• ESSA (Angola) – training
• MSTelcom – telecommunications
• Sonip – property development
• SIIND – industrial investment
• Sonaref – refining
• Sonangol Logistica – logistics
• SonAir – oil and gas industry air transport service
• Sonangol P&P – oil exploration
• Sonagás – natural gas exploration
• Sonangol Holdings – investments
• Sonangol Distribuidora – oil products distribution
• Sonangol Shipping – crude oil maritime transport
• Sonaci – oil, gas and products marketing
• Sonangol Finance Ltd – financial services
• Clínica Girassol – healthcare
• Sonangol Hidrocarbonetos Internacional – oil and gas operations abroad
Sonangol Ltd’s first 30 years
In recounting the history of the three decades since Sonangol Ltd’s foundation in February 1983, three major themes emerge in the London office’s story: operational expansion, staff stability, and above all, reputational growth.
Sonangol Ltd’s oil sales on the London market began from a modest office dealing in small volumes of just three grades of crude. Today the company’s smart offices offer around 14 grades, and the volumes traded are those of a medium-sized producer.
During the last 30 years oil prices have soared from less than $10 a barrel to peak at $145 a barrel. Angola’s oil output has also rocketed, reaching one million barrels per day in 2004, and it is set to hit the two million mark in 2014.
Growth in sales led not only to the expansion of Sonangol’s London office but also to the opening of sister offices in the United States and Singapore.
Constancy in the London office’s management has been reflected in the slow turnover of staff, a key indicator of employee satisfaction. Several members have clocked up more than 20 years of service, and the current longest-serving member, supply and logistics manager Ceri Evans, is now approaching his third decade in harness.
The expansion of oil sales and customer familiarity with the long-serving staff at the London office has enhanced the reputation of both Sonangol EP and Angola. Back in the early days, Sonangol EP was a little known company that had to fight hard to establish its credentials as a reliable supplier on the London oil market. Sonangol Ltd soon proved it was a trustworthy marketing partner in the city by securing loans, underwritten by its oil, for the Angolan government. Sonangol EP made sure Angola’s creditors were always paid on time, boosting its own and the country’s credibility.
Today, it is a proud boast of Angola that there is no other African oil producer with a better standing on the international oil market.
Legacy and future developments
Sonangol’s London office has seen huge changes over the past three decades in both the company’s and Angola’s fortunes. When Sonangol Ltd was established, it represented a small, largely unheard of company, trading low volumes of oil for low prices from a little-known country. Today, Angola is enjoying high economic growth rates underpinned by oil production which it has increased tenfold.
Sonangol’s London team deserves particular credit for making a significant contribution to improving the reputation of the company as well as that of Angola. Sonangol Ltd is regarded as the front office of the whole Sonangol Group; its role goes far beyond that of just an oil marketer.
Sonangol Ltd is extremely proud of its culture of client care developed over the last three decades. Members of staff recognise the value of long-term relationships and are considerate and flexible in their approach without losing focus on the process they oversee.